What’s next for Tadej Pogacar?
Winning a second Tour at the age of 22,Pogačar is on an unprecedented trajectory to stardom. What does the rest of the season hold for him?
We should get used to the sight of Tadej Pogačar winning. He now has two Tour de France titles in the space of ten months, with triumphs at UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Slovenia coming in the middle. Throughout July, he raced to the manner born, taking three stages victories along the way.
In the short-term, the boy wonder is heading to Tokyo and given his imperious form in France, he’s got a good chance of capping a golden month on the top step of the Olympic podium.
And yet, this is potentially still just the beginning for the 22-year-old. What lies beyond 2021 for Pogačar? He is set to back up these victories in cycling’s biggest race with a tilt at another Grand Tour. He is not confirmed for this year’s Vuelta and that could be biting off more than he can chew, but we could well see a push for a rare “double” in 2022: Giro-Tour or Tour-Vuelta. Pogačar’s agent, Alex Carera, believes he is the only rider in the bunch who could target that in the next few years.
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Pogačar is a bike racer with bunch craft and an appetite for attacking racing. He has shown his ability and versatility across stage races, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and finishing seventh on the gravel of Strade Bianche.
Il Lombardia is well within his repertoire and competing in cobbled Classics like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are not out of the question. “I know he’d like to do them in the future,” his UAE-Emirates team-mate Marco Marcato says. “He asked me how they are, how they feel. He can be good [there], for sure if he’s good in the mind … in echelons and small roads before, he has always been in my wheel.”
Pogačar was already down to race the 2020 Tour of Flanders last October before pulling out late. Of course, as his stock reaches meteoric heights, UAE-Team Emirates could well seek to omit the sport’s leading star from such races, given the heightened risk of crashes and injury.
Pogačar: he’s the business
Off the bike, Tadej Pogačar the brand is also on the rise. You may have noticed the Richard Mille watch on the podium; this year, he has also partnered with top Slovenian supermarket Tuš, his face adorning sandwiches and other food products.
“Why supermarkets? Because people go shopping, and when they do and see his face on television, they’ll cheer for him,” his agent Alex Carera explains. Pogačar is also set to be an ambassador for Slovenia at world-leading tourism fair, Dubai’s EXPO.
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Carera, who has helped the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome and Thor Hushovd during a long career in management, has been careful to protect Pogačar and only choose brands that can help to grow his image: “In the first year, I wanted him to have fewer obligations. Because every company you say yes to wants a part of his private life. And at his age, it’s better he has more of a private life because the important thing is durability. Money is a normal consequence of good work and victories, which is the priority.”
And Pogačar most definitely is in the money. The prize money for winning the Tour de France was a cool €500,000 on top of his reported €5million annual contract with UAE-Team Emirates; a galaxy away from the €70,000 contract he signed with the team upon turning professional in 2019.
While so much has changed for the two-time Tour de France winner in a short space of time, his agent is confident that money and fame will not turn the head of pro cycling’s calm man of the moment. “I can say that winning the Tour has not changed his way of life or way of interacting with the people around him – friends, fans and the media one bit,” Carera says.